China: Helping poor matters more than economy rankChina
China's government plays down No. 2 economy rank, saying helping poor more important BEIJING (AP) -- China's government said Tuesday it still is a developing country despite becoming the second-largest economy, reflecting its reluctance to take on new obligations on climate change and other issues.
Beijing needs to improve life for millions of impoverished Chinese, said a Commerce Ministry spokesman, Yao Jian. It was the government's first public reaction to news Monday that China passed Japan in economic output in the April-to-June quarter, confirming its arrival as a global commercial power.
"China is a developing country," Yao said. "The quality of China's economic development still needs to be raised. It needs more effort to improve economic quality and people's lives."
Rapid growth has boosted the communist government's political and economic influence abroad. But Beijing has resisted adopting binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions or making commitments in other areas such as easing controversial currency controls or guaranteeing foreign suppliers equal treatment in government purchasing.
China overtook Japan after Tokyo on Monday reported quarterly gross domestic product of $1.286 trillion, behind China's $1.335 trillion reported earlier.
With a population of 1.3 billion, China ranks among the poorest countries per person, with an average income of $3,600 last year, compared with Japan's $37,800.
China's government is in the midst of a marathon effort to spread prosperity from its thriving eastern cities to the poor countryside and west. Communist leaders are trying to diffuse tensions over a huge wealth gap between an elite who have benefited most from three decades of reform and the poor majority.
China has more than 40 million people living below its official poverty line, Yao said.
"We should care not only about the gross domestic product data but also about per-capita GDP," he said at a regular news briefing.
The government's Xinhua News Agency stressed that theme Tuesday, issuing a dispatch that cited a French economist as saying China still is a developing country.
China's rapid growth has produced striking contradictions. It has the world's second-largest military budget and has launched two manned space missions, but many families live on a few thousand dollars a year.
Beijing has amassed foreign reserves of $2.5 trillion and state-owned companies are major investors in mines and oilfields abroad. The government has become a major presence in the Group of 20 major economies but says it speaks for poor countries at the World Bank and other international bodies.
China's growth also has fueled strains abroad over its surging energy demands and environmental impact.
Its surging oil and gas imports have prompted surging Chinese demand helped to push up global crude prices. The issue is sensitive for the government, which angrily rejected an International Energy Agency report last month that China passed the United States in 2009 as the biggest energy consumer.
China also is the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases blamed for changing the climate. Beijing has promised to restrain growth of emissions but has refused to adopt binding limits while calling on the United States and other industrialized countries to cut their own output.
Associated Press researcher Bonnie Cao contributed to this report.
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